COACH EKKAPOL THE UNLIKELY STATELESS HERO
Schooled as a monk and now hailed a hero, football coach Ekkapol Chantawong is one of several stateless members of the "Wild Boars", a team whose survival after days trapped in a flooded Thai cave fixated a country that does not recognise them as citizens.
The UN refugee agency says Thailand is home to around 480,000 stateless people. Among the stateless are Ek and three of the boys who were trapped in the cave alongside him -- Dul, Mark and Tee. "To get nationality is the biggest hope for the boys... in the past these boys have problems travelling to play matches outside of Chiang Rai," he added, because of travel restrictions that accompany their lack of status.
TRAUMA FEARS CLOUD UPBEAT PICTURE OF BOYS
The dramatic rescue of a dozen boys from a flooded Thai cave ended a harrowing two-week ordeal that most seem to have weathered with astonishing mental and physical resilience -- at least for the moment.
Despite days trapped in the gloom of a cramped, part-submerged chamber the youngsters' psychological state is "very good", Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, Inspector General of the Public Health Ministry, told reporters yesterday, adding that they were now "free from stress".
Despite the positive health assessments so far experts said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest itself.
SUCCESSFUL CAVE RESCUE A BOOST FOR JUNTA CHIEF
“Hooyah! Hooyah!" Thailand's junta chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, was greeted with a rousing cheer when he inspected the operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave this week.
The rescue, which ended on Tuesday with all 13 brought out safely, has been greeted with joy around the world, and at home it has, for now at least, united in a glow of goodwill a country divided by politics for years.
The success of the military-led operation could help Prayuth burnish his image in the approach to a general election that some Thais hope will see the austere military veteran emerge as chief of a new civilian government.